There are a small number of people in the world who are the rule makers of the game and control the right to speak in the industry; There are still some people in the world who are game changers, challenging and trying to change the rules.
Game Changers is an online open source magazine centered on celebrities in the financial world. It interviews people who are considered to be game changers in the industry or are changing the rules of the game. At the iFXExpo Asia Hong Kong exhibition in early 2019, @GChangers interviewed LEAN WORK CEO Darren Qian, who discussed the unique model of the Asian market, the core competitiveness of LEAN WORK, and how foreign exchange brokers entered the Asian market.
The following is an interview：
1. Thanks for joining us today at GC Darren, can you tell the readers how you got into FX?
Darren：Thank you. I really appreciate this opportunity. I have been in the FX industry since 2006. Back then, I was still in university, I was incidentally involved in a training session held by CMC, which got my attention to this industry. After graduation, I joined the well-known British brokerage, IFX Markets. I started my career in the FX industry since then, and that was 12 years ago.
2. Lean Work Inc is a well-established brand in Asia, how do you think the business climate differs from Asia?
Darren：Asia has a unique business climate. One good example is that Asian society is based on relations. Therefore, reputation is well depended on personal relationships and network. This leads to a huge involvement of IBs in the business expansion process in Asia, which is not so popular in EU or US. Asia is also a new market for the FX industry. Different countries have different levels of development, various levels of brokers. Together with the rapidly changing market environment, business would need to be agile enough to respond to the market.
3. Is Hong Kong the biggest expo for you?
Darren：Yes, IFXEXPO is the best expo in the region. It is a great honor for LEAN WORK to participate in the expo for consecutively 5 years.
4. You operate in an incredibly crowded field, how does your product differ from everyone else?
Darren：Truly as you said, the technological service sector in FX industry is very competitive. There are only more than 3000 global currency traders, but each year at IFXEXPO, you can see hundreds of technology service providers. Even so, I am confident to say that LEAN WORK is an enterprise with core competitiveness. Our core competitiveness is our focus.
We are the best in the industry in one specific area
. Companies focus on a single area of the industry and apply multiple times of resource more than its rivals on it. This is a popular strategy in the Chinese IT industry, and LEAN WORK has been implementing this strategy. We are a service provider focusing on CRM technology service with our core product Broker Work
. We are the earliest, in the FX industry, to make CRM as our main product and we also invest the most. We have a team of nearly 100, including an R&D faction of 40 to 50, in updating and polishing the product continuously.
In the past three years, we have updated the hundreds of versions, and our product Broker Work is growing with each version. Although there are lots of technology firms in the FX industry, few have the same R&D capability. For those companies with similar capability, they would have a wide range of products resulting in a lack of focus. This means none of their products are well polished and supported. Therefore, solely in the CRM service field, our competitors are far behind in relative strength
This year, we have also invested a lot of R&D resources on making our digital marketing platform base on our CRM. Our target is to prepare our future expansion to global brokerage market. Our competitors will no longer be technology firms in the FX market, but global leading CRM vendors such as Salesforce and Hubspot. Those are the big guys, worth billions of dollars to tens of billions of dollars. However, when comparing our products with theirs, ours is deeply combined with FX industry and can be said to be tailored for the FX industry.
As for the big guys, they are reluctant to customize a system for a detailed area. General systems are just like the big brands to provide customers the same style and size of shoes. Although the brands are famous, the products must be expensive and may not so comfortable to wear. In comparison, LEAN WORK can provide fully functional, customized products in less than a third of their price
. We will continue to focus on this field, aiming to be the leader of the global brokerage CRM.
5. Is the client needs different from European brokerages?
Darren：Different markets have very different needs, I can give you a specific example.
In 2017, we tried to expand our business in Europe. We set up an office in Cyprus, but success did not follow easily. The key reason was we underestimated the demand difference between different markets. The resource needed to deal with the differences was also beyond our expectation, so we decided to suspend the European market at that time.
Back then, our core CRM product (Broker Work) in Asia had the IB Portal and Client Portal function as the key selling points
. With a full spectrum of functions at a reasonable price, our product was ideal for brokerages with IB development as the dominant business model as well as the start-up brokerages. Asian brokerages relied more on channels to expand the market, while European brokerages are more direct online access to the customers.
Therefore, the demand for the system is different. Another fact is that Asian brokerages have much shorter histories comparing with their European counterparts. For start-up brokerages, LEAN WORK’s product is almost a necessity, resulting in a lot of demand.
However, European brokerages are relatively more mature, and most of them have their own CRM system, so they may only need some modules. Brokerages in the Asian market are very sensitive to the system’s price and they cling to choose cheap and easy-to-use products, while European brokerages have relatively stronger payment ability and higher professional level, but they need perfect product functions.
6. What tips would you give for companies looking to break into the Asian market?
Darren：At present, the Asian market is the market with the most growth potential in the global FX industry.
The EU and US markets have almost stagnated. In the past few years, we have also served a number of European and American FX brokerages. To view this question at their angle, I believe they need to achieve these three key points;
First, they must build a local operation team.
Only the local team can understand the local market and provide support services suitable for the needs of the local market.
Second, they need to formulate a localized market strategy,
LEAN WORK is on the way as well. As each market has its own characteristics, enterprises need to adapt to the local environment. They should not expect to just simply replicate proven strategies from other places.
Third, they would need to design differentiated products and services.
Due to the high level of homogenization of FX products and services, they need to find their own differentiation advantages. At the same time, they need to build customer portraits that match their characteristics, in order to stand out against thousands of institutions to reach the customers who match the portraits.
In the context of tightening global market regulation, the European and American markets tend to be institutionalized, and the scale of retail business shrinking, the Asian market has become a must for brokers.
Understanding the Asian business model and choosing a CRM system that suits your business model will help you adapt quickly to the Asian market.
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